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Sunday, August 30, 2009

International Night of Worship

For our church service tonight we had an international worship night, where groups of crew brought something from their different countries. So we thought we'd share bits of this service with you.

Sharon ended up being in the group from Wales-6 of us considered Cardiff as home, but only 1 was actually Welsh speaking. Another was half Canadian and half Welsh and was born in Bridgend. We read Psalm 23 in welsh and sang the great hymn "Guide Me O Thy Great Jehovah". (as a footnote we apologise to any Welsh speakers out there who might cringe at the pronounciation of some of the words...we gave it our best shot....must admit we don't think we will be taking up Welsh in the near future....we'll stick to French!)

We also had music from Ghana, which got everybody up and dancing.

....and even this baby slept through the whole thing whilst tied to her mothers back.

Then we had the South African's

Followed by a contingent from Poland who sang a very lively version of Hallelujah.

It was all finished off by the German speaking countries.

It's great to be a part of such a big International Crew and share worship together.

Hitting the Bottle

Yesterday we finally gave in and hit the bottle. We needed to take a little walk to get what we were looking for, but it wasn't too long before we found a little stall in town at the side of the road that sold just what we needed, plus the storeholder even knew how to say the price in English as we frantically searched our brains for a translation of prices from French to English. Why is it we ask what the price is in French then get surprised when the response is also in French and then we're stuck!
So after surveying all different kinds of labels and their contents we settled on the African Queen and Shayo Dry Gin bottles. We thought this would go down very well for a lazy afternoon in the cabin.
In case you're thinking we've gone nuts.....that's exactly what has happened:
In the African Queen we have sweet peanuts:
....and in the Shayo Dry Gin bottle we have cashews.
This is quite a normal way to sell nuts and it's not bad for $2-3 each and if you take your bottle back you might even get a discount (we'd best learn the French for that first!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nathanael's Unusual Sleep Pattern

Nathanael seemed to develop some funny sleeping positions yesterday. As Sharon was out playing being "Mr Kipling" in the crew galley, having been inspired to make some viennese fingers for a surprise birthday party, she returned to find that Nathanael had fallen asleep in the middle of his "choo choo" game.
Then he fell asleep in the middle of his "Winnie the Pooh" book last night.
and in case you were wondering......the viennese fingers tasted really good!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Norwegian Soccer Team Profile Mercy Ships

Kristiansaand’s Start players who played against Fredrikstad in the Premier League last Sunday wore the charity’s logo on their jerseys. The goal was to promote the charity in Norway and the promotion was donated free of charge. This special arrangement was due to a collaboration between Mercy Ships, IK Start, and the soccer team’s main national bank sponsor, Sparebanken Sør. Board chairman for Mercy Ships Norge, Erling Natvig, was very pleased with the opportunity. In his opinion this was important in the organization’s work to help even more people.
“We are thankful that IK Start and Sparebanken Sør wanted to do this for us. Having Mercy Ships promoted in this manner is very valuable. We wish to help the poorest of the poor, but to do so, we need to be better known in Norway,” said Natvig.
“Our humanitarian efforts are primarily directed to local and regional activities. However, as a central bank in connection with the annual TV fund raising action, we have also contributed beyond our national borders for many years,” says Gry Moen, Marketing Director for Sparebanken Sør, whose logo normally decorates the Start jersey. “When local enthusiasts in Mercy Ships asked to borrow our advertising spot on the Start uniform for a game, it was easy for us to say yes. We know that Mercy Ships gives many people new opportunities for a better life. In addition, we are impressed by the volunteer effort and enthusiasm of the individuals who operate these hospital ships. We cheer on Start and Mercy Ships and wish them the best of luck in their future work,” she stated. IK Start channels its community service through its daughter company Start Life Support AS, and supports projects both nationally and internationally. “Start Life Support is Start Football’s community service program, and has a goal of helping those less fortunate locally, nationally, and internationally. We already have many ongoing projects, but when the request from Mercy Ships came, we thought the dedication and work was so exciting, that it was not difficult for us to promote the project. Mercy Ships efforts on behalf of the poor is unique, and for us to have the opportunity to use our own stadium to tell about this wonderful work feels very right” said Director Helge Josdal, Start Life Support AS.
...and the score?
Start beat Fredrikstad 1-0!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Beloved Ship Shop

At 12:30pm every weekday the doors of the ship shop open and there is a rush to get there before the crowds. You enter the shop and begin the one way loop of the two aisle super store. Grab your basket. Walk past the cleaning and stationery supplies. Pass the water bottle carriers on their stands. Make a left at the baking supply section. Grab your eggs & juice from the fridge. Turn left at the gummies (grab one, if you must). Saunter down the back aisle and dilemma over which type of cookie you might crave that evening (Dutch, English, American?). Then resign to chat with people as you hit the ship shop rush hour traffic. At this point, you are only halfway through the store, but have reached the far end of the check out line.
Then there it is....my find of the day, never have we seen it on the shelves before. To some, you might not feel it's a big deal, but to a Brit on a ship without access to their normal home supermarkets...it is heaven, and news soon spreads fast amongst the Brits as they join the rush to grab a jar. Yes it's.........
(Chutney to others, enjoyed with cheese on a sandwich)
It is easy to stay cool from here on in. The line moves at a mellow pace and allows you to browse any toiletries you may be running low on. Skim a chapter of a book, if you like. Try to find a shirt above size small. Examine all the hand made local crafts.
Okay, you are nearing the checkout. Stay calm. Keep relaxed. Shoulders back. Head up. Mentally scan your memory to see if you have forgotten anything. Choose your favourite pringles flavour and place everything on the counter in front of our dear shopkeepers. Not forgetting the 2 toilet rolls that Nathanael always picks up for you whether you want it or not!
Your items are being scanned in. At this point you hold your name tag up so the cashier can punch in your name to charge to your account. Done. If all has gone well, you will have remembered everything and won't need to repeat the circuit. You are good to go....CONGRATULATIONS you survived the ship shop rush hour!......just another glimpse of our lives on board

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How About this for a Day Job

We often sit and watch in amazement at how many fisherman, like this, catch their fish and haul it in each day. It is hefty work!
Then at the end of their trip they all sail past our cabin window displaying a variety of flags, colourful sails and paintwork.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Farewell Edele Family

One hard thing about being on the ship are the goodbyes and somehow they never seem to get any easier as crew gather on the dock to wave people off. Today we said goodbye to dear friends, the Edele Family. Wolfgang has worked his socks off as one of the doctors on board and Andrea worked in the hospital, but she was also Sharon's nursery partner. Together with their two kids, David and Amy, they are a very special family and will be missed greatly on board here. Have a save trip back to Germany!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Anyone for French Fries Pizza

We've just been out for dinner to say goodbye to some friends....we just love ordering food in Benin and not know what we're going to end up with after attempting to translate or even guess what the French means. Ever tried chips/fries or an egg on a pizza?...yes it was on the menu. We all wanted to make sure we got it right as somebody had been before and ate in the dark and was convinced that they were eating snake!...we figured it was the beef tongue!
Goodbye Patti and Kevin, we're going to miss you...come back and visit one day.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Darkness Lifting

For seven years, Genevieve has been the eyes for others. She gave birth to three children – two boys separated by a girl – all with cataracts in both eyes, preventing them from seeing anything but the most subtle shifts in light and shadow. Going anywhere has been an exercise in patience and strength for Genevieve – tying one-year-old Ricardo on her back with a piece of brightly-patterned cloth, taking seven-year-old Alexis by the hand, holding three-year-old Nadege by the arm – then guiding them up steps, through thresholds, and around potholes. For years, her eyes have been vigilant guards against danger – coal stoves sitting in the corners of rooms, containers of liquid that could scald or poison, and all the daily threats that could harm her children. “Because of the blindness, I must be with them all the day,” Genevieve said. “Even if they are playing, I have to watch them. In everything, I have to be right beside them.” Genevieve and her husband tried to get help for their children. They visited the hospital in Glazoue, the nearest city, but they had no means to pay for the expensive cataract surgeries. The physical toll of her children’s blindness was heavy for Genevieve to bear. But the emotional strain was even more difficult, for Genevieve wondered what would become of her children in a country that makes no accommodations for blindness. Genevieve also struggled spiritually. “Why is it that all my children are blind?” she thought constantly. “What did I do to God for this to happen?” To make matters even worse, she heard people cruelly whisper, “It must be witchcraft or a curse – because three blind children in one family is too unlucky.” Then hope surfaced when a man in their village offered to help. André Affedjou, a civil servant in Benin, and his friends sometimes assist people who cannot afford medical treatment. When they heard about Genevieve and her children, their hearts were touched. “Usually we find one blind child in one family or one handicapped child in one family, but three blind children for one family was too much,” André said. He knew that if they did not get help, they would have a very bleak future and would be dependent on others for their entire lives. André said, “They will not have a chance to go to school because there is no blind school in the village. But if they receive their sight, it will be a great happiness.”
André heard about Mercy Ships on the radio and arranged for transportation to Cotonou and for housing for the family. They came to the ship the week before Easter – three happy children, laughing, using their fingers to “see” the toys the nurses handed them, and mimicking the foreign noises of the ship. Genevieve looked pensive – daring to hope, yet unsure that her solution had finally arrived.
“I hope that the children will recover their sight,” Genevieve said, “and they can go to school. I will be so happy if my children can see my face and my husband’s face.”
Kim Strauss, Eye Team Coordinator and wife of eye surgeon Dr. Glenn Strauss, said that the children arrived in very good health – good enough to be operated on immediately. Often, children have to be nursed for a few days before their operations, usually due to dehydration or fevers or infections. She gave Genevieve credit for the children’s good health and spirits. “She is such a wonderful mother,” said Kim. “The kids are so happy. Even when they were blind, they were such happy little children.” And their innate joy was evident in their infectious laughter, their giggling chatter, and their dimpled smiles that wandered the room without focus. They seemed to be designed to experience life and happiness to the fullest extent.
The expectation for a successful surgery was highest for three-year-old Nadege. She hadn’t been blind long enough for permanent damage, yet her eyes were developed enough for the new lens to fit well. For congenital cataract procedures, children over the age of seven often have permanent damage because the optic nerve never develops, and the brain adjusts to blindness. This was a worry especially for Alexis. For baby Ricardo, the concern was that his eyes were not developed enough for the procedure and that the lens wouldn’t fit correctly. The children all received their operations on the Thursday before Easter and spent a night with their eyes patched. The next morning, the surgeons, operating room nurses, and Kim assembled for the exciting moment – it was time to remove the bandages. First they removed Nadege’s. “When we got the bandages off,” Kim recalls, smiling, “she grabbed the doll we were holding in front of her and said, ‘Bebe, bebe.’ So she knew what it was, and we knew she could see.” Next was Alexis, who they feared wouldn’t see as well. They put the toys on the floor. He looked around, walked straight up to Dr.Glenn, and took something he had in his hand. Finally, they removed Ricardo’s bandages, and then promptly returned him to his mother’s arms to calm him. For some time, he lay with his eyes squeezed shut. Finally he opened one eye and glanced around. Suddenly he saw something on his mother’s shirt, and he reached up and grabbed it. “When he did that, we knew he could see, too,” Kim says. “It’s just a miracle! Even to Dr. Glenn, to see their vision come back is still a miracle. For him, every operation is a prayer that their sight will improve, for them to be able to function, to get around and get into things, like kids are supposed to do. And when it happens, it’s just fantastic.” Now Genevieve’s hopes are realized. Her children will see her face, and they will know their father by sight. They will go to school. She will see them holding hands and walking outside to play on their own. The burden she carried so faithfully and lovingly is gone! The darkness has lifted!
“I am so happy,” Genevieve simply says. “I am so happy, I cannot tell you how happy I am.”
Story by: Carmen Radley
Edited by: IOC Editing Team
Photos by: Esther Biney and Debra Bell